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Kroger expands ghost kitchen rollout to Houston

Kroger’s newest ghost kitchen is located in Houston.

The Kroger Co. isn’t scared of bringing its new ghost kitchen format to new markets.

As initially announced in August 2021, the country’s largest grocery retailer is partnering with ghost kitchen startup Kitchen United to provide customers freshly prepared restaurant food for takeout or delivery in select Kroger banner locations. Following the January 2022 opening of its first ghost kitchen center at a Ralphs store in Los Angeles, Kroger is opening its second location at a Kroger store in The Heights neighborhood of Houston.

The ghost kitchen center enables customers to place an order digitally using Kitchen United's proprietary Mix platform via web, mobile, or an in-person ordering kiosk. Customers can then pick up their meal onsite or have it delivered. Restaurant staff prepare the orders and delivery service fees are determined by third-party providers.

[Read more: Retailers extend their presence with ghost kitchens]

The Houston Kroger ghost kitchen location offers food selections from more than 10 independently-operated local and national restaurant brands, including Burns Original BBQ, The Rustic, Fuddruckers, Buca di Beppo, Dog Haus, and Capriotti's Sandwich Shop.

The partnership with Kitchen United is not Kroger’s first agreement with a ghost kitchen company. In 2019, the retailer partnered with ClusterTruck, a software platform that powers delivery-only kitchens, to deliver fresh meals on-demand with no service or delivery fees. Kroger went on to open two ghost kitchens in its stores, one in Fishers, Ind., and one in metro Columbus, Ohio. Both of those locations offer delivery and pickup.

"Our customers know they can count on Kroger as a destination for the freshest meal solutions," said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger's group VP of fresh merchandising. "The Kitchen United collaboration provides another simple, on-demand meal option within our stores. It is one more example of how Kroger is fulfilling our commitment to anything, anywhere, anytime."

"We are thrilled and proud to be the first Kroger location in Texas to launch this exciting and innovative partnership," said Laura Gump, president of Kroger Houston. "'What's for dinner?' is a question that's always on the minds of our customers and being able to offer a fresh and tasty selection, paired with friendly service, is the experience we strive to provide each day. This partnership emphasizes how we continue to advance our ‘Fresh for Everyone’ strategy."

"Kitchen United Mix is proud to introduce our multi-restaurant ordering platform to more shoppers through our newest grocery installation with Kroger," said Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano. "We recently launched our first 'store within a store' at a Ralphs in Los Angeles, and it's been incredibly popular. By partnering with Kroger, we now offer Houstonians a variety of delicious meals for delivery as well as for pick up as they shop." 

Based in Cincinnati, Kroger operates 2,800 stores, including more than 100 stores in Southeast Texas and Louisiana, under a variety of banners across the U.S., including Kroger, Ralphs, Dillons, Smith's, King Soopers, Fry's, QFC, City Market, Owen's, Jay C, Pay Less, Baker's, Gerbes, Harris Teeter, Pick 'n Save, Metro Market, and Mariano's.

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